Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dead Zero, by Stephen Hunter

It appears that I've run into a series.   The hero of this novel, Bob Swagger, is the star of a number of Mr Hunter's books; I've not read any of them before this.    That lack of background caused no harm; this is an excellent thriller.

The hero is a retired military sniper; another hero of this novel is a current military sniper.   There is, consequently, lots of sniper dialog, war scene, blowing things up, and killing.   As a movie, it would get an "R" rating for violence.

Tropic of Night, by Michael Gruber

My father-in-law asked me if I had a suggestion for a terrific book, as a follow up to my recommendation of "The Passage."   Immediately after, I finished this novel.  Wow -- here's the recommendation, and an addition to my top 10 list for 2011.   Is that synchronicity?

This is a strange book.   It is a mix of anthropology primer, West African mysticism, police procedural and love story.   It isn't an easy book to read.    But it is an excellent novel that I highly recommend.

As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen

I suspect this is the original popular consumption version of the notion of the power of positive thinking.   It is a brief text, almost a magazine article (and free on Kindle).

This text was referenced in Tim Sanders', "Today we are Rich."

There are ideas that sound nearly Buddhist, such as, "Suffering is always the effect of wrong thought in some direction."    And there is an optimism that may have been the root of more popular concepts such as "the secret," (of which I am not a fan) such as, "...beautiful thoughts of all kinds crystallize into habits of grace and kindliness, which solidify into genial and sunny circumstances..."

Certainly worth the read.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Agent X, by Noah Boyd

I enjoyed Mr Boyd's prior novel enough to seek out this one.   If anything, this one is even better.   The plot is complicated but is sufficiently credible to hold one's interest.   The character development is solid.  If you like this genre, you're not apt to go wrong with Mr Boyd.

Today we are rich, by Tim Sanders

This is a simply outstanding guide to positive thinking and success -oriented behavior.    Mr Sanders achieves this outcome without (very much) preaching.

The book asserts seven principles:

  1. Feed your mind good stuff.   In other words, avoid negativity, from both others as well as yourself.
  2. Move the conversation forward.   This is a notion of being constructive.
  3. Exercise your gratitude muscle.   Now here's where a cynical "titan of Wall Street" sort of reader might risk getting put off, but Mr Sanders handles this well, and builds a reasonable argument.
  4. Give to be rich.   Okay, another risky chapter for the hard boiled, film noir, Gordon Gekko -type reader, but bear with me.
  5. Prepare yourself.  In other words, do your homework so as to be effective.
  6. Balance your confidence.  I found this among the weakest chapters; the message is to believe in yourself and others, and mix up activities and interests.   This chapter also has the largest component of religious messaging.   I don't believe you'd miss much by skipping or skimming this part of the book, but it might be really resonant for some readers.
  7. Promise made, promise kept.  Do what you say you'll do.

If you've read in this genre before, you probably can guess at some of the additional reading that Mr Sanders recommends:

Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People who are Poking the Box and Making a Difference, by Seth Godin

Mr Godin added "Poke the Box" to his books within the Domino Project, the notion being to inspire people to push their personal envelopes in a constructive fashion.    This book is a compendium of comments to "Poke the Box," a set of anecdotes about how people have tried new things with positive results.

I'm hardly the Kumbaya -singing, glass half full kind of person, and yet this book warmed even my cold heart with its inspiring stories of people making a positive difference.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ghost Country, by Patrick Lee

As previously mentioned, I didn't delay to read this sequel to The Breach.    My comments on this novel are as positive as they were for Mr Lee's prior book.   If anything, it is better.   Listed at 384 pages, it read as though it was magazine fiction -- over much too quickly.

The Breach, by Patrick Lee

One of the very cool things about the Amazon Kindle is the ability to download free samples; a few chapters of a book so that one can get a feel for if it is something enjoyable, or not one's cup of tea.   I went through about four such samples before reading this one.   It was intriguing enough to get me to buy.

The hero is Travis Chase, an ex-con who is also an ex-cop, who stumbles upon a crisis.  There's the requisite love interest in Paige Campbell, but don't get me wrong, it is done well and not trite at all.

I had some confusion processing the flashbacks that explain (or attempt to explain) Chase's past.   But other than that, this is a well written thriller.

Warning:  it has elements of science fiction as well, but it is not what I'd broadly classify as a sci-fi novel (although I guess I'll apply that tag to this blog entry just for completeness).

The novel felt as though it went by too quickly, and I didn't feel I needed to read the sequel's free sample before just buying it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

When Darkness Falls, by James Grippando

I bought this book through a great deal on Kindle:  delivered free, in three separate downloads.    That's what helped a better than okay novel jump up to a solidly good on my list!    There are two heroes:  a blind police officer (Vincent Paulo) and a criminal defense attorney (Jack Swyteck), both of whom have history in prior of Mr Grippando's novels.    There's a beautiful love interest police officer, political connections and relations, and the humidity of a crime novel set in Miami.